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Learn all about sous vide cooking: what is sous vide? how is it done? what can you cook sous vide? As well as many more tips and tricks for how to get started cooking sous vide style!
If any of you are avid Top Chef watchers (we love the show) then you have probably heard them mention cooking something "sous vide" before.
Sous vide is a French term that actually means "under vacuum."
What's awesome about sous vide cooking is the *almost* impossibility of overcooking a piece of meat, which is perfect for sensitive meats like these sous vide lamb chops.
That's right - gone are the days of overcooked grilled beef and dry chicken, fish and pork chops. Sous vide results in tender, juicy meat (or fish) almost every time.
Like this sous vide whole chicken - it cooks the chicken up to perfection. Tender, juicy breast along with juicy, flavorful thighs and legs. It's perfection!
Or this sous vide mahi mahi - perfectly moist and tender with an amazing avocado cilantro cream sauce.
What is Sous Vide?
Sous vide is basically a method of cooking using what is called an immersion circulator. This immersion circulator circulates water in a temperature controlled water bath at a certain temperature to perfectly cook your food every time.
Because the temperature doesn't change, and it keeps your meat (or dessert, veggies, etc.) at the same temperature, your risk of overcooking becomes very minimal.
*Note you can still leave it in the water bath for too long causing the texture to be mushy, but we're talking hours too long, not the 1 minute it takes to ruin a steak.
How Does Sous Vide Work?
Because we are cooking our food in water, we are able to keep it at an even temperature, which eliminates the risk of overcooking.
The sous vide cooker uses a heated metal coil to circulate water and bring it to the desired temperature. Note the water will never boil in sous vide cooking (otherwise we'd just call it "boiling").
Constantly moving water ensures your meat is cooked evenly with no hot or cold spots.
Air in an oven, on a pan or on a grill gets much hotter than you want your actual food to be in order to cook it. This is where you run the risk of overcooking it.
With sous vide, your food will NEVER get hotter than the water!
Just set your sous vide cooker (immersion circulator) to the desired temperature, let the water bath rise to that temperature, and let the water do it's magic. This is one of the easiest, hands-off method of cooking that provides one of the best results.
Once your meat is done, you can take it out and place it in a water bath to cool it for storage or searing, or leave it in until you are ready to serve it.
If you plan on searing it (you almost always NEED to, with some exceptions), you will typically heat a pan or grill to a smoking hot temperature and just very briefly sear on each side to form a crust.
I believe this is one of the best kept secrets of professional chefs, who have been using these for years!
However, this method of cooking does take significantly longer than typical cooking (a couple hours for a steak instead of 5-7 minutes). But if you plan ahead, the cook time is virtually hands off.
The Benefits of Sous Vide Cooking
Well, we've already talked about the benefit of the actual meat not being overcooked (that's the #1 in my book!).
Besides that, it can make life incredibly convenient as well. For instance, you can batch cook chicken or other proteins and have them stored (in the same vaccuum seal they were cooked in) right in the fridge for ultra easy weeknight meals.
If you're planning a dinner party or holiday feast, being able to cook your proteins in advance (let's be real, cooking the proteins is always the hardest part) in a HUGE time saver and stress reducer.
Plus your meat will be perfect and your guests will think you're amazing.
ANNNNND...it's not only good for meat, it works great to cook the perfect poached eggs (admit it, you can't seem to master that poached egg yet), it makes lemon curd a breeze, makes the most decadent creamy crème brulee you've ever had, and the most awesome sous vide green beans!
And the sous vide soft boiled eggs are just AMAZING!
What Do You Need to Get Started?
While there are not a lot of tools required for sous vide cooking, you will need a few things.
Plus, this handy, dandy sous vide temperature guide is a must have to get started!
Sous Vide Cooker
Well first and foremost, you need a sous vide cooker (or immersion circulator if you want the technical term).
Years ago this was much more difficult as they were not widely available (at least affordably) to regular consumers. But now they have super easy to use countertop versions that do a great job!
Personally, I use the Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker (1000W) with a separate plastic water bath container. It's $175 on Amazon right now.
There are a number of different brands you can choose from, but Anova has the best ratings and I've been very happy with mine. Here are other options:
- Anova Pro Sous Vide Precision Cooker: $399 on Amazon
- Anova Nano Sous Vide Precision Cooker: $129 on Amazon
- Breville Joule Sous Vide: $180 on Amazon
- Inkbird Sous Vide Cooker: $80 on Amazon
You will need a large container to affix your sous vide cooker to that you can fill with water.
For very small tasks, you can use your Dutch oven, but I have found having a large water bath to be more convenient as I can keep the water in for a couple weeks and reuse it.
I use this Everie 12 quart sous vide container, but any of these will work as well:
Now you don't HAVE to have a vaccuum sealer, but it sure does make things convenient.
However, you can use freezer safe zip lock bags (the higher quality the better to avoid splitting in the water bath) and just use the displacement method to push the air out.
I have a old school FoodSaver brand vaccuum sealer, but you can use any of these as well:
- FoodSaver with automatic bag detection: $199 on Amazon
- FoodSaver space saver: $98 on Amazon
- Geryone Vaccuum Sealer: $70 on Amazon
- Mueller Vaccuum Sealer: $60 on Amazon
What is the Displacement Method?
The displacement method is where you slowly submerge a ziplock bag in water pushing the air out of the top of the bag (the bag should be slightly open at the top to allow air to escape).
Use a clip (I use binder clips) to clip the bag to the side to keep it from floating and getting air and/or water inside.
The last thing you need for sous vide cooking is going to be a grill, griddle, or skillet to sear your meat on when it's done cooking in the sous vide.
Who's Ready to Start Sous Vide Cooking?
Now that we've covered by basics on what sous vide cooking is and what you need to get started, it's time to get started! I recommend starting easy with these sous vide scallops, this sous vide filet mignon, or this sous vide flank steak (my favorite!!).
Have you used a sous vide cooker before? What has your experience been? Comment below and let us know how you like it!